Different South African sectors are synchronising their act on Monday, as Pretoria prepares to host the highly anticipated 10th summit of the Brics bloc – which groups Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa – to be held in July.
“One of the things we did last year is that we found that think-tanks and academic forums were working in one compartment, and our business [sector] was working in another compartment, and government in another compartment," Ambassador Anil Sooklal, the department of international relations’ Deputy Director General responsible for Asia and Middle East said at a stakeholders workshop in Pretoria.
"So we took the initiative to bring them all together. We said they must interact. I called Prof. Ari Sitas who leads that process [the SA BRICS Think Tank], and I called Dr [Iqbal] Surve who leads the [SA] Brics Business Council, and the department of trade was also there.
“We had a workshop and we agreed that there must be synergy between what we are doing. We agreed that we need to interface more closely between each other so that we don’t work in compartments and we all suffer as a result. We had that first workshop, and we will have a second workshop next Friday with all these entities.”
Ahead of the 10th summit, Sooklal said “the movers and shakers” will be jetting into South Africa often, as preparations intensify.
“The Business Council is working fairly well. Each country has its focus area and we have various working groups. I must say I’m very pleased when I interact with the Business Council; that is moving very well. You can see annually when the leaders meet, and on the margins of that you have the business forum, it’s quite a vibrant forum. All your movers and shakers from all of these countries, the big business that matter will be descending here in South Africa,” said Sooklal.
“What we do in terms of our private sector preparedness in interacting to them and leveraging opportunities is left up to us. How we maximise that opportunity, again, depends on the preparations we make between now and the summit in July. In terms of our preparation, we are quite well on board. We have our first Sherpa meeting on the 4th to 6th of February in Cape Town. All the Brics country Sherpas will be there.”
A Sherpa is a civil servant, or diplomat who undertakes preparatory work prior to a high level summit or conference.
The 9th Brics summit was hosted in Xiamen City, southeast China, in September. Last year, the Presidency in South Africa said trade between Pretoria and the other Brics countries reached 31.2-billion U.S. dollars in 2016.